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Mom sentenced to prison in meth breast-milk death of infant

March 20, 2012 |  2:36 pm

A Humboldt County mother whose 6-week-old baby son died after ingesting methamphetamine-tainted breast milk has been sentenced to six years in prison.

Maggie Jean Wortman denied that her drug use caused her son’s death, suggesting instead that someone else had killed her baby by staging a suffocation scene at the foot of the bed where she was sleeping, according to the Times-Standard in Eureka.

Wortman pleaded guilty in February to voluntary manslaughter as part of a deal with prosecutors, who had said they'd otherwise pursue a murder charge, the newspaper reported.

An autopsy on Michael Acosta III found that the baby died of "methamphetamine toxicity" on Nov. 21, 2010. Prosecutors say Wortman should have known the dangers of breastfeeding her child after using the drug.

The 27-year-old woman's attorney argued during Monday's sentencing that his client should be placed in a drug treatment program rather than go to prison.

But Judge Bruce Watson referred to a probation report that said Wortman has not fully taken responsibility for her son's death.

"She ... denies that her unconscionable negligence led to the deadly poisoning of her child,” the probation report states, according to the Times-Standard.

The case is reminiscent of the trial of Amy Prien, an Inland Empire woman who was initially convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison in the 2002 death of her infant son by feeding him methamphetamine-tainted breast milk.

Prien allegedly used the drug for more than a decade, and friends testified they had used methamphetamine with her throughout her pregnancy and while she cared for son, Jacob.

But Prien told jurors during a second trial that she did not use drugs while she was pregnant.

Before a third trial could be held, Prien pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

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-- Steve Marble

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